Deep Cuts

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2010 at 11:39 pm

As that great philosopher S. Crow once said, “The first cut is the deepest.” However, while this advice may be applicable to angsty, teenage romance and amateur sword jugglers, it is largely inaccurate in describing the humanistic trifecta of sensory, cognitive, and emotional responses that converge when a scalpel is inserted into to a cadaver for the first time. Or rather, what responses should converge.

It is no secret that, although I possess both prerequisites required to be considered “human” (arrogance and ignorance), I am essentially a robotic automaton. I do not have the capacity for human emotion, which is something I discovered when I found myself rooting for the iceberg while watching the movie Titanic. However, I am now built to mimic human activities, thoughts, and emotions. I can pretend to enjoy the company of my insufferable classmates. I appear happy or sad when presented with appropriate stimuli. So, when faced with the prospect of having to root around inside of a cadaver for medical school, much like a weary tourist digging through a suitcase looking for sunscreen, I was faced with a conundrum. I did not know what reaction I would have. Or for that matter, what reaction I should have.

My cadaver’s name was Anthony. Actually, I guess his name still is Anthony. Just because you are naked, stuffed with preservatives, and dead doesn’t mean that you can’t still have some dignity. By the time I had got to him, my lab-mates had already peeled back the skin and muscle of his chest. Once a man, he now was an orange peeled and zested, as if preparing for some crepe Suzette recipe that had taken a literal, cannibalistic turn.

I was now ready to exercise my rite of passage for medical school and desecrate a human body. I was disappointed that I was unable participate in any grave-robbing to acquire the cadaver like the medical students of old, but those who defile the dead cannot be picky. We live in a society now that frowns upon the sale, purchase, or larceny of human beings, dead or alive, despite being tacitly complicit in allowing the far greater travesty of three seasons of the “television show” Jersey Shore. But now, scalpel in hand, I was in a different kind of “situation.”

First, we had to flip him over. It was my job today to dissect his back muscles. What began as a seemingly simple action of 180 degrees of rotation quickly devolved into a dark, slapstick comedy. My dissection team scrambled around this tank like the Three Stooges, grabbing Anthony’s extremities as if we were instead a team of clumsy movers bringing a couch into a new apartment. His limb bags would slip off, and while we struggled to put them back on, his head bag could creep up. The lower part of his face would be exposed, and since we feared that peering into a corpse’s eyes would invoke some sort of (gasp!) human response, we quickly pulled the bag back over his head. But no matter how much we tugged it down, it kept sliding back off as we attempted to perform this difficult maneuver. It seemed that even in death, Anthony was curious to get a glimpse the group of four 22-year-olds tossing around his body inside a metal tank.

Eventually, we had his back exposed. To get a proper angle for dissection, I grabbed a large wooden block kept under the tank (along with the rusty bone saw, turkey baster, and other tools fit for mad scientist with a knack for cooking) to help prop up his chest. And as I was struggling to place this chunk of wood underneath Anthony, I began to grasp the true nature of my experience.

Anthony was, dead, yes, but so are many other things. The wooden block was once part of a mighty, tall tree, full of pride, ambition, and possibly termites. Now, it is forced to prop up dead humans, like a slippery doorstop in Death’s foyer . And while we make a big fuss about the grand philosophical implications of interacting with a dead human, so one seems to give any consideration to the suffering and past life of this poor plant. I will admit that this does sound quite insane, but most observers would use precisely the same term to describe any group of 100 people ripping out hearts from cadavers in a dark, dank basement.

This (and approximately 10% phenol) was floating around my mind as I made my first incision into the back of my cadaver. One of my lab mates said:

“Make sure the first cut isn’t too deep.”


My First Graduate School Rotation, Written as a Buddy Cop Movie

In Published by McSweeney's on August 26, 2010 at 11:54 am

A letter to the newmen and newwomen of the University of Kansas Scholarship Halls

In Inside Jokes on August 16, 2010 at 1:19 am

Good morning. I say “morning” because this is a new dawn for you. I’m sure you were a popular boy scout/band geek/D&D player at your high school. You had upwards to eight friends in your small town, where you liked just “hangin’ out” or “chillaxin’” at the local mall. You were pretty cool. But now things are going to change.

You are about to enter the Scholarship Hall Community. Most of you don’t know what that means, scared of change and loud noises. But here is where I come in. I will take you by the hand and guide you through the fiery gauntlet that will be your first year in the scholarship halls. With my help, you might even survive*.

*Note: You probably won’t survive.

Who am I to give you advice?

Let me tell you who I am. My name is Sai. I lived my first two years in the Russian gulag called K.K. Amini Scholarship Hall. For the most part, we were fed Borsht and raw potatoes. Using my sharp wit and a sharper shiv I whittled out of toothbrush, I quickly rose to power as the Vice-President.

But that wasn’t enough. I wanted more, to build a legacy beyond K.K. Amini. I dug my hands into the earth in the vacant lot near Rieger and pulled from the ground a new scholarship hall. I completed the building with my bare hands and named it after my green beret comrade Carl “The Hammer” Krehbiel who saved me back in ‘Nam.

Thus, Krehbiel Scholarship Hall was founded. Naturally, I was its first President.

But I became bored with the limited power of democratic presidency. I instigated a coup d’état and forced a constitutional change to establish a monarchy, where I rose to become to first King of Krehbiel. My first action was to commission a portrait and statue of my glorious reign (the portrait remains hidden in Krehbiel’s basement, where it grants me immortality as it ages rather than me. The statue is purely decorative).

After two years ruling Krehbiel, I was deposed, exhiled onto a small island nation much like Napoleon. I am now forced to write for the internet from my small cell, pondering my own fall from grace. The men of Krehbiel are no longer allowed to speak my name (as decreed by the new King Peter), and if it is uttered, the man must spit onto the ground to show his respect to the new King. From my prison, all I have left is my advice for you newmen and newomen of the scholarship halls.


Like I stated above, the halls are run by internal governments, and the inferior ones by “democracy.” If you wish to pad your resume with minor governmental positions that future employers cannot and will not understand, then you should consider running for one. If you join the coveted Executive Board, then you will have access to the secret VIP rooms in each of the halls. The jacuzzi in Krehbiel, the fighting pit under Pearson, the hot-stone massage room at Rieger, and the dungeon in Grace Pearson will all be at your fingertips.

Additionally, there exists an All Scholarship Hall Council which commands authority over all of the halls. This is an elaborate ruse set up by the men of Krehbiel; it is a puppet entity that allows Krehbiel men to control the community unbeknownst to the other halls. Krehbiel men officially hold most of the positions on the ASHC, and most of the Housing staff present at the meetings are merely Krehbiel men in elaborate disguises. The rumored All Scholarship Hall Council Scholarship Hall Council (ASHCSHC) does not exist, despite some blurry photographic evidence and unreliable testimonies.

Hall Rules

While I was in power, I was forced to censor my scholarship hall interactions as per the bidding of the all-powerful Department of Student Housing. But now that I have left the system, I am free to talk about any number of prohibited activities within the halls, such as the imbibing of alcoholic beverages, the use of illegal drugs, or keeping your fax machine plugged in over winter break.

The first thing you will have to do when moving into the scholarship halls will be to renounce your god(s). Now, there is nothing wrong with your previous choices in worship. But you really should have read the fine print on your Housing Contract. KU owns your soul now.

For instance, Krehbiel men worship Poseidon. It is even said that the King is the descendent of Poseidon himself, and rather be elected, is chosen by divine will and given power over the hall.

Making (New) Friends

As newmen/newwomen, you won’t be so much “friends” with the older residents as you will be “subordinates”. You will address the oldmen and oldwomen as “sir” or “madam,” and avoid eye contact. In Krehbiel, each newman will each have a one-month mandatory butler-service to an oldman. Tuxedos will be provided*.

*Note: You will have to provide your own bow ties.

You and the other newmen/newwomen will bond over such conditions as you tell tales late at night in your servants’ quarters. These men and women will be come lifelong friends. Remember these brave comrades-in-arms. You will be able to take advantage of them later in life.


Inevitably, you will find yourself looking longingly at your sister/brother hall, waiting for the one handsome/beautiful resident to come over and win your heart. That resident will already be in a committed relationship with someone much more attractive and interesting than you. This is the inevitably of the scholarship halls.

Advice for Women

Rather than some handsome man arriving on your doorstep with a bouquet of flowers, you will get throngs of awkward and drunk men pounding on your door late at night.

You will ponder the unfairness of it all. You will either have to lower your standards or increase your celibacy. Whichever you choose, it will be the wrong choice.

Advice for Men

Let’s face the truth guys, we’re pretty awesome. We can play Modern Warfare 2 for hours without shame, eat nothing but frozen pizzas and remain inexplicably alive, and shout profanity at mealtimes in what we consider “conversation.” But this is not enough to get women. Your best chance will be to use deception.

Much like in love, in order to lie to someone, you first must be able to lie to yourself.

The Scholarship Hall Director

The SHD is your friend. He or she has managed to trick Student Housing into hiring them and is already siphoning money from KU into an offshore account. However, the SHD’s are quick to anger and gain superhuman strength if Housing Policy is violated. My old SHD Brice once flipped a car over after discovering that someone had taken too many cups up to their room, and even tied a resident to the back of her car and dragged him through dirt roads for violating the quiet hours.

Your SHD will be in charge of both a male and female hall. Your SHD will have a favorite hall. It will not be the one you are in.

Last Words of Wisdom

Like Odysseus and his shipmates, you are going to embark in an epic journey in the scholarship halls. And like them, many of you will probably be killed or eaten before returning home. Just remember this: don’t fear the cyclops, be the cyclops.



Former King of Krehbiel